January 16, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Trending hot! Hot chocolate, that is

For hot chocolate (or cocoa) lovers, Portland may well be paradise.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Marguerite Swoboda uses the frother on her espresso machine to make her salted caramel hot chocolate.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Marguerite Swoboda of Sweet Marguerites in South Portland melts chocolate that she’ll use in her salted caramel hot chocolate.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


SOME PEOPLE ARE MARSHMALLOWS. Others are whipped cream. People feel strongly about what they put in their hot chocolate, and they can get awfully creative, too. I asked folks on my Twitter and Facebook pages to tell me what they like to add to their hot chocolate, and here are some of their suggestions:

Cayenne, cinnamon and maybe whiskey

Peppermint Schnapps


Homemade marshmallows

A shot of Bailey's Irish Cream with a dust of cinnamon and shaved chocolate on the whipped cream

Cinnamon, ancho chile and cardamom, just like the lovely sipping cocoa from Black Dinah Chocolatiers

Marshmallow Fluff

Godiva liqueur

A candy cane to stir it with

Toasted coconut marshmallows

Cinnamon and cardamom,a bit of ginger

Mini marshmallows

"I like to dip buttered toast into it"


Amarula liqueur


Plain cake doughnuts

A touch of chai


Coffee ice cubes

"Booze! Kahlua, Bailey's, Chambord, Nocello, Fra Angelico, etc. All good"

-- Meredith Goad, staff writer


Over the holidays, I heard raves about the salted caramel flavor, but apparently now it's only made by request. The Mexican hot chocolate, which contains hot sauce, is one of CBD's most popular flavors right now.



Public Market House

28 Monument Square, Portland

Varieties: Milk, white, dark and Aztec mocha

Cost: Aztec Mocha $4 for 8 ounces; $4.50 for 12 ounces; $5 for 16 ounces; $5.50 for 20 ounces

Aztec: Two hot chocolate cups

This little coffee place, located on the second floor of the Public Market House, only had Aztec Mocha listed on the board the day I visited, so that was what I ordered. The drink, according to the board, was made with dark chocolate flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and a dash of cayenne pepper.

The cup looked great, with lots of foam -- lots more foam than hot chocolates I got at other coffee houses. I was disappointed, though, when I tasted it. I was expecting a rich dark chocolate taste, but instead the drink was overpowered by the cayenne pepper. I couldn't taste the chocolate or any of the other spices, and there was a weird grittiness to it. There were little pieces of something in my mouth that had almost the texture of coconut. Was it the other spices? Who knows, because all I could taste was cayenne.



2 Free St., Portland

Variety: Regular hot chocolate

Cost: $2.34, $2.57 and $2.80

Two hot cocoa cups

This one, made with a liquid and milk, had little foam and tasted more like warmed milk than hot chocolate. This was like something you'd make for the kids at home after they've been sledding -- something out of a packet you keep on the shelf. It just wasn't anything special.



Maine Mall, South Portland


Varieties: Classic, salted caramel, chai hot chocolate

Cost: $19.99 for 12 ounces

Chai hot chocolate: Three-and-a-half hot chocolate cups

Every holiday season, my family splurges on some Williams-Sonoma hot chocolate, which is made from shavings of premium bittersweet Guittard chocolate that melts well in milk. Last year, we tried the salted caramel version and were not impressed. It screamed "here's some salted caramel because we thought we'd cash in on this trendy flavor profile." The salted caramel flavoring was so strong, it tasted artificial.

We had better luck this year with the chai hot chocolate, which includes flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. This was much more subtly flavored and well balanced. Whereas I will never touch the salted caramel again, I've gone back to the chai hot chocolate two or three times and still have it on the shelf at home.



425 Fore St., Portland

Variety: Drinking chocolate

Cost: $3.50

Four cups of hot cocoa

Portland's two competing gelato shops are also fierce competitors when it comes to hot chocolate. Both stores have out-of-this-world classic hot chocolate, but they are also very different, so it's hard to say I prefer one over the other. If you are looking for something that is absolutely rich and the very definition of the word "decadent," the Gelato Fiasco hot chocolate is the one for you. It may be too rich for some people, but if you're in the mood, trust me, this is a treat.

The drinking chocolate is made with chocolate gelato before it's been frozen -- be careful, I can hear you drooling from here -- which gives it a thickness and creaminess unlike any other hot chocolate I've tried around town. According to the woman who made mine, the gelato is combined with whole milk and a splash of choclate-flavored syrup. An infusion of peppermint is optional. (I declined this and drank mine "straight.")

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Additional Photos

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Ingredients include Maine sea salt, caramel, cinnamon, whole milk and El Rey bittersweet and milk chocolate.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Gelato Fiasco's hot chocolate

Photo by Meredith Goad/Staff Writer

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Hot chocolate at Gorgeous Gelato

Photo by Meredith Goad/Staff Writer

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Sweet Marguerites hot chocolate

Photo by Meredith Goad/Staff Writer


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